Don’t Mess with the Jews

The Librarian of AuschwitzThe Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In Auschwitz, human life has so little value that no one is shot anymore; a bullet is more valuable than a human being.

This review is way overdue. I was having another reading slump when I picked up this book two months ago, and though I was very intrigued by its rich, historical content, my reading speed was utterly slow. To simply put it, reading The Librarian of Auschwitz was like trying to push through a hefty textbook. I felt like nerdy Hermione Granger as I highlighted numerous lines and passages that captured the essence of the Holocaust. I was determined to learn as much as I could, especially because my Christian upbringing and education had made me sympathetic toward the Jews, God’s chosen people. With that in mind, it could be said that I was reading for enlightenment, not for mere pleasure or entertainment. I wish that I were able to finish this book quickly, but I’m glad that I somehow managed to reach the finish line.

As the title implies, The Librarian of Auschwitz has a very bookish plot. Just like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, it is a historical novel about a young girl who protects literature during World War 2. Based on the experience of a real-life Auschwitz prisoner named Dita Krau, this book is a powerful story that can make you so thankful for Hiter’s demise. If you already hate Hitler, be prepared to loathe him even more.

From the get-go, you should know that this book is very slow-paced. I recommend taking breaks in between chapters just to give your brain a chance to take in all the historical information. In other words, be prepared to encounter a lot of characters, places, and dates. For the most part, I enjoyed the book’s attention to detail; it was obvious that the author really did his research. However, I couldn’t help but feel sleepy during the info-dumpy parts. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t be fair to criticize the pacing of this book because “speeding it up” would probably require deviating too much from history. For instance, if the author had added a lot of action or romance to the plot, the book would have felt less authentic or meaningful.

The chapters about German violence were the ones that kept me wide awake. The descriptions of murder and torture were hardly filtered, painting vivid pictures of the Nazi’s “creativity.” I was both disgusted and amazed by their talent for killing the Jews. Hundreds of Jews were exterminated every day to the point that the incinerators were running out of space. I nearly cried when the book described what really happened in the infamous gas chambers a.k.a “bathrooms.” The Jews did nothing to deserve such treatment, so it pained me to vicariously witness them being slaughtered like a bunch of animals.

Thankfully, there were German soldiers who actually had a conscience. I found it very interesting that some of them even had romantic feelings for their prisoners. I felt a little conflicted about love blooming in such a dreadful setting. Still, I was glad that the book was objective. I would have hated all of the German characters otherwise. One of the things that I loved about this book was how it made me realize that not all Nazis deserved to go to hell; some of them might have been forced to join Hitler’s cause. Who would have thought that the Nazis deserved the benefit of the doubt?

Even though this book was focused on the past, I found it very relatable. Dita and I were generations apart, yet we were united in our love for books. Both of us saw books as priceless gateways to knowledge and a myriad of worlds. I found myself nodding my head vigorously whenever she said something about the importance of literature. In a way, this book is a tribute to all bookworms. ❤

Ultimately, I gave The Librarian of Auschwitz 4.5 stars because it gave me a deeper understanding of the Holocaust. This book effectively illustrates that we shouldn’t be foolish enough to mess with the Jews. I never want to be detached from such a significant part of Christian history, so I can definitely see myself rereading this book in the future. (Hopefully, its slow pacing won’t induce another reading slump.)